Two names have officially been thrown into the ring for a run at the Columbia County Commission's District 1 seat: Ron Thigpen and Scott Nichols.
Thigpen, who has worked for Georgia Bank & Trust for 35 years, on Friday made his announcement to seek election in front of the Columbia County Justice Center in Evans. The gathering included some county staff, state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, state Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans, county commission Chairman Ron Cross and Commissioner Steve Brown, who will vacate his District 1 seat at the end of the year.
"We all need to understand that Columbia County is not broken and I'm not here to fix it,'' Thigpen said at his announcement, but added that if elected he would seek to keep the county's strong financial standing as it is in the midst of an ever-growing population base.
Thigpen said he feels he's the right person for the commission seat because of his past experience as a county planning commissioner, four years of which he served as the chairman, his time on the county development authority, and his expertise as a "community banker.''
Harbin and Whitehead both spoke in favor of Thigpen's run.
"I'm here to tell you today that Ron can hit the ground running,'' Whitehead said.
"This is just a natural progression of our county's growth,'' he said. "Columbia County has been blessed to get great folks to take the hits to make Columbia County better. I want to thank him (Thigpen) most of all for stepping up today.''
Thigpen will face Nichols in the race for District 1 commissioner. Nichols, the chairman of Columbia County's Democratic Party and a senior project manager for a national engineering consultant firm, announced his candidacy for the District 1 seat Monday at a gathering at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
Nichols has said he feels a change is needed in Columbia County's leadership and has been a leading proponent of impact fees, a charge made to developers on new growth to help pay for certain future growth needs.
"Growth is good, but the developers should pay for the impact - not the homeowners," Nichols said. "Growth should pay for growth."
Nichols said the cornerstone of his campaign will be to impose impact fees, based on the square footage of new construction in residential and commercial developments, as a way to curb tax increases that otherwise would be imposed to fund major infrastructure projects in the county.
Terry Holley, former chairman of the Democratic Party of Columbia County and the current chairman of the 9th Congressional District of the Democratic Party of Georgia, spoke in support of Nichols.
"We need people like Scott, people who are men of integrity and values and common sense, who step into the arena of public office because he believes he can make a difference," Holley said.
Nichols said residents should not be satisfied with the status quo of county leaders, who should be more open to new ideas.
"There needs to be somebody who is brave enough to stand up and say 'that's a dumb idea,'" Nichols said.
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